It’s the second day I wake up late and I cannot forgive myself. Cats are dying on the street and at home, and they can only count on a few, if not just one. It’s holiday season, the first festivities we can celebrate in relative freedom after two years stall on life during lock downs.

But just like we cannot see our enemy, even though we are sleeping with them, the cats wouldn’t know what struck them down but crippling pain as they try to move, and devastating sting when they try to eat. The cannot smell anymore, the mucus is too thick, they cannot see anymore, their eyes are sticky.

And here I am, their only hope, the one they made themselves move to – crawl, slither if need be – so that they can find safety and live a little longer, fallen into restless sleep twenty minutes more.

So, let’s take that shortcut. Two miles strip of a road laced with stalls and food carts with two rather large mosques, also the place where countless cats, kittens, babies, seniors were thrown away, crushed by vehicles, beaten up, kicked, forcefully shooed away from their right to pursue happiness. Some even born there, suffer there, die there, long or short their life might be.
Heck happiness, they are even denied their right to live.

And I saw her, paralyzed from the hip down, dragging herself crossing that two lane street.
She only wanted to drink. No seriously. She didn’t care about pain, she didn’t care about her legs, she didn’t care about the mud spattered all over her face when those arrogant self-called “image of God” just pass over the potholes in their cocky fancy vehicles. I mean vehicles: expensive cars and sport motorcycles that can buy half a small house.

If there is anything that can make me love this country, I can ask any public transport to stop anywhere anytime. These drivers won’t care if a chain crash as they stop would throw them to the moon.

I jumped down and ran. Run. Run! I was exhausted. I walked like a snail but I need to run. Run before some idiot saw that empty road and speed up, pretending they are some sort of cool racer.
She looked at me. There was no horror in her face. There was no vengeance.
There was only the face of a helpless cat wishing someone can listen her silent whisper and get her some water. Some water from that deep sewer that trickled way below.

I picked her up but she cannot drink those tears that started to flow uncontrollably down my cheeks. Allowing her to do so will only make her more thirsty.

So I carried her to the main road and stopped a taxi. Not just any taxi, The Blue Bird. They are trained to be five star drivers and although one of their codes are no animals allowed, most of them turned blind eyes if their passenger packed up their pets with them, so long as the pet stays in the carrier.

The one who picked me up saw how horrible the cat looked under her hip when he jumped out to open the door for me (it’s one other of their codes) and keep comments for himself.

I can see his eyes mellowed, though, and I am glad for his compassion. There is always one or two of the pack who would “stick to their codes” using their companies to hide their wicked dry heart.
He asked me if I would like a ride to the nearest vet, but it’s six something a.m. and the whole town is still in hangover.

So we rode home and I lay her on dry, warm towel I pulled out from the dryer. Then not water I gave, but milk. Diluted milk and a little bit of honey. I gave her minced chicken mixed with egg yolk.

She looked at me, with those kindly round eyes, but if I look back at her and try to speak I’d be croaky and cry. So I just pushed her bowl a little bit closer, and look at her crushed leg, almost rotten.

Like who cares if I wake my vet in the morning, right? If she is still asleep she can see when she wakes.
But she woke and she responded immediately with instructions of what I should do. Prescribing antibiotics online, pain killers, immune support.

She asked what time I would be at the clinic, and see her first time in the morning when I carried the lady cat in.

She did what she can, and my new baby looks fresher, stronger, much, much better when she sent us home.
But that’s about it, because I don’t have the money to pay for yet another surgery.
Croaky and teary, I had to look at her. “There was a man with a pet lamb and a pet trout once walked the earth” I whispered to her as we wait for transport. “A stupid priest fried his trout and hungry workmen slaughtered his lamb”.

There was no anger in those eyes, there was no sadness. Only kindness.
Our transport came then. So we went in and as I lay her on my lap, I told her:

“The pet lamb is called Martinello, and the pet trout is named Antonella”
“A priest saw Antonella, caught her, and fried her, and when the man’s friar asked for it back, the priest threw the cooked fish and it shattered to pieces”
“So the friar picked up all the piece into his hand, and this man, looked to heaven and said, ‘Antonella, in the name of Charity, return to life.’”
“And the trout swam joyously again, in one piece”

The cat looked back at me. There was no horror in her face. There was no vengeance.

“I have no such gift, Antonella” I told her,”But I am going to give his Trout’s name to you and invoke his name so that in the name of Charity, he will bring you back to life”
But the rest of the way, the only thing I can say was “I am sorry”

I am sorry.

~ Josie



But I admit I didn’t really listen.

There are very many things in my mind: sick cats, hungry strays, piled up bills, dead bodies: old cats and adult cats and young cats and baby cats. Mother and her babies, even.

But she didn’t stop talking, and she didn’t stop bringing it up, she didn’t stop repeating, until part by part sinks in to my over crowded brain.

That the cat has a tumor on her ear, and that she brought her to the most famous, elite, and very expensive vet in the whole town and beyond.
That the vet surgeon there had removed her ear, and the cat stayed at the clinic while she silently paya the heap of bills that comes every week since then.
That she sat in the tiny cage on top of other cages receiving the best of care.
The story faded in discord.

Though I haven’t been to that clinic she talked about so often, I know the place well. A tiny SOHO where everyone strutted their fancy purebreds, with nose looking at the sky. A receptionist behind the table, soft spoken, but never miss a spot licking the client’s ass.
Everyone there is soft spoken. Full of praises, full of hope, full of price.

Behind that receptionist, an alleyway with exam room on each side that ends in a windowless back room where people stack things on top of the other. A stairway to the second floor, with dirty, damp, smelly cube for the janitor, where people stuffed mops and brooms and buckets filled with water that turned black from poo and pee, or vomit from those fancy pedigrees that lined up on the sofa with their proprietors.

Along the walls of that backroom are cages stacked against the wall from the largest to the smallest; and inside those cages are pets of all kind. Some with an infectious disease, some with wounds, some trying to recuperate after surgery. Some just sit around because their self-called ‘pawrents’ wouldn’t pay a maid to take care of them while they need to mind their own business.

They live there, eat there, sleep there, pee there, poo there. Yes, stacked against the wall in their respective cage on top of each other.

Peppermint Patty sat on the smallest cage on top of the stack. She was fed with steamed chicken breast, they said. She received ultimate care by the most prominent vet, they said.

But even the prominent vet’s biggest fan – who brought Patty to that vet – knows that Patty did not get better. She is weaker, and sadder, and gloomier, and sorrowful, and sorrier by the day for the months and months she spent there trying to get over her surgery.

With my respect to that prominent vet and many other prominent vets in that clinic, I reminded my friend of the pictures of cat and dog meat market in Thailand or Vietnam we often see in those online petitions.
She put two and two together, but the she looked at me.

I took a deep breath, pulled my hair, and sighed very long.

And Peppermint Patty came the next evening. The saddest, sorriest looking cat in my entire life as a rescuer.
She had a collar that prevent her from scratching her stitches, but who knows how long it has been there, because her neck was raw because of it.

I removed that collar, but it took Patty maybe fifteen minutes before she started to move veeeeeeery slowly to flex her feet. Who knows how long she has been crouching in that tiny cage, because her collar is a tight fit to that cage from one end to the other.
And then, she starts grooming.

She was so pale, like there was no blood left in her. She was so fragile, as if a little flick of a finger would blow a hole right through her.

She was so used to tiny places, she fits herself in tiny nook just her size in my livingroom and stays there.
The next morning I showed her the sun, and she gingerly touched the ray like she never seen one before. I put a plate of minced chicken breast in front of her, and she ate like she never eats before.

I give her a bed, and she choose a sheet of newspaper wet from urine at the corner. I give her blanket, I give her fresh water every day.

The first time she meows, one month later, I was screaming as if we won the biggest lottery. The day she ventured out of her tiny nook, I danced like I am crazy.

In the middle of all these deaths. In the middle of all the sufferings, and the lack of food, and the lack of medicine, and the lack of money, and the lack of sleep, and the lack of everything, Peppermint Patty, the hopeless, gives me hope.

When the only certainty is uncertainty, Peppermint Patty, thin as paper, gains weight.
Her fur is getting cleaner, and whiter, her eyes are getting brighter, her walk is steadier. Her pats are getting stronger, her claw is firmer.
Peppermint Patty, the hopeless, gives me hope.

I never take her to that prominent vet. I take her to my own. That clinic downtown is not half as fancy as the previous, but all the vets there rescue animals, even strays. They serve the dirt poor, and innovate and improvise, so even the lesser of mankind like me, who lives in a commoner’s world, can keep their cats, and still will charge less.

The stark contrast that has driven the rich away from them is the truth. They deliver the news as is, no fancy talks, no false hope, no artificial sweeteners.

When the previous vet’s office won’t let me have Patty’s history, we took matters into our own hand. We did a second biopsy, we did another test. Patty’s tumor is benign: it won’t cause pain, it won’t cause organ failure, it won’t do anything.
It only grows. And the more it is cut, the more it will grow.

Peppermint Patty is hopeless. So why put her back in that tiny cage, cut another part of her and keep her on the stack of cage in the windowless, smelly, damp, dark back room?
Why let her whither, when she is right now glistening?

Peppermint Patty is hopeless, but she gains weight, she is not in pain, she is in peace, she sleeps soundly, she meows, she plays, she grooms.
She lives.

And at this time of darkness, she gives me hope.

~ Josie



At this point, I have abandoned all hope. I have ignored faith. Every day, from one sunrise to the next, I see death. Death by the weather, death by vehicle, death by the outbreak, death by hunger.

I don’t care about the human outbreak. People don’t. Though the government cancel our holiday – the first we would have had after being restrained for two years – they are off everywhere strutting their vaccination barcodes everywhere, and more even abandoned their safety protocol. I wear double masks and wash my hands and they look at me funny.

It’s the storm; and then the heat wave from that nasty volcano that keep spewing shit until today. Three deep sea earthquakes with potential tsunami. Oceans are unbearable. We have the news of the first mass death by Calicivirus and it spread like wildfire in such bad weather.

I have seen twenty two of the Whiskers’ Syndicate’s refugees died, and more fell ill every day. Those that sat waiting for death on the roadside because they can no longer fight alone. People who dump cats by my fence and walk away as if it’s no matter. Men and women in the parks and around the colonies I have taken care of came over and said they found this cat or that cat had died. Some told me where they buried them, some did not remember.

Eventually, there is nothing left to pay the bills, so I let them take away my modem, and will let whoever that comes next to take away whichever they need so long as they don’t bother my cats.

I know where I am going. When that 25 liters of cat food buckets no longer spew kibbles, we’ll reach our final destination.

Along came Molly. Another rescue told me about a pregnant cat who lives in a tiny alley near the place of the elites west of town. A pregnant cat who wouldn’t get better no matter what she feeds her; a pregnant cat who wouldn’t come to term even if it past her time.

“Didn’t you say there’s a countryside girl who comes and feeds her every so often, even before you found her? What about you have a little chat with the girl and see if we can be clear about the cat’s situation?”

She can only try. She is an expat who lives here for maybe 15 years but her Indonesian is the likes of those who only know this country for about 15 weeks.

She said, the girl said, the cat is not pregnant. She has FIP wet type. She said the girl took the cat to a vet named Joseph not so far in the past, and this vet Joseph advised against draining the accumulated fluid because the cat will die.

In Bandung, vets can say crazy things. Most of them use their skills and training for personal gain and become backyard breeders themselves. The younger vets are smarter. They give advice, consultations, suggestions, did nothing, and charge the patient.

So Molly came to me with belly three times her size. Molly went to the vet the next day.

But nothing came out when my vets sedated her and put catheter inside. So they tried other techniques.

What came out was not the clear, somewhat sticky fluid that belongs to FIP. What came out was thick, black, tar like slime that smelled like a rotting carcass. Smell so sickening they closed the clinic for an hour and kicked their air purifier to the highest capacity.

We would love to ask how long had she been like that, we would love to know how this vet Joseph didn’t say anything, and even advise against draining that – whatever.

But I cranked the cat’s pen open, while another vet rushed to prepare the surgery. A vet tech came quick with tools, while the other closed the door and disinfected the rest of the place.

Her womb was as big as my arm, and whatever black goo contained inside started seeping out and poisoning her organs.

God, how long have You been torturing this cat before a better God took her over and send her to rescue?
She was two kilos (four pounds) lighter after that bloated womb was taken out, and the surrounding organs was flushed clean.

She has stitches so long it seemed as if she wears a body suit with long zipper. She has cables and pipes everywhere.

Yet Molly woke up as if the whole saga was a relaxing nap under the tree in a cozy afternoon. She responded to us like a house cat that we have for the rest of our lives.

Molly eats. Molly drinks, she uses a litter box, as if she always know where to go, what to do. Molly welcomes me with glimmering round eyes, and wouldn’t let me stop without butting her head, even for me to take picture.
Molly wouldn’t get better, though. She couldn’t spring to her feet or prance like the others when I come with trays of half filled food.

She sat patiently like a lady with eyes as bright as star.

The vet said she will probably just live like that for whatever is left in her life. She wouldn’t have her energy back, she wouldn’t have her thinning fur back, she wouldn’t be young again.

But she will live. She will enjoy life as it comes to her with every sunrise, with every moon, with the twinkling of the stars when she slowly climbed the cat tree by the window and let the wind caresses her face.

Molly will sit by my side when I lock myself out of the house and cry alone on the stairs. I don’t care about my life, I can die right now. I have nothing to lose myself, but I fear and worry about the lives of these cats that I will horribly end when I ran out of everything.

Molly will lay by my side when I took a few minutes for my ankles, swollen for standing all day long, sometimes for few days; but Calicivirus is a racer and if I don’t keep up my pace more lives are going to be lost.
Molly will walk me to my room when I have nothing more.

But Molly will be there again when the day breaks and life renews. Molly will sit patiently at the back of the line watching others prance for their half filled bowls.

Molly no longer has a chance. Molly no longer has hope. Molly does not have faith.

But Molly has life, and therefore she lives.

So should I.

~ Josie



We’re a decade and four years together, but he is fifteen. After the founding cats of The Whiskers’ Syndicate, came Degas. Came as a wee kitten sitting in the middle of the road under the rain. He made sure I will never miss him.

He always sits at the back, hidden on one shelf, or sits under the table. He is out of sight, but when the others have their share, I will find him by my feet with head up high, eyes fixed on the last plate I saved just for him.
I’d wait until he looks at me and meows. He would, but just once, then he wants his feast served in a spot he chooses.

He never fights. Cat fights annoyed him. He’d irritatingly find another spot, and then he’d curl his barrel body into a puffy dough, trying to catch up on his long lost sleep.
He never quarrels, he is always in peace. Just give him his spot, and he’d be out of the way. If he needs anything, he’d see if everyone is asleep, then he’d have the world for himself. Chasing with imaginary friend(s), chatting with what must be an old sage who passed him on his way back to the world. Drinking from the fresh water as if it’s the fountain of life, sniffing the flowers, whispers to the wind, staring at the fog ascending back to heaven as the sun rises.

My mother calls him an old soul. I called him Bodhisattva. When I am distracted or disturbed I’d talk to him, even if it annoyed the heck out of him, even if it changed his face into crumples and crinkles. Only he sees my tears, only he hears my sighs, and curses, and psalms, and laughter. He is like a young-looking old pastor in the chamber of confession. Those pastors made us confess with extra zest, and accept whatever train of punishment we have to pray without complain.

Degas is the best laundry detector. If I walk pass him and one of the towels on any of the shelves is dirty, he’d sit on it, looked at me with clear chagrin, and meow. Just once, just short. When I accidentally skip another towel, another meow. Once, short; enough to keep me on my toes.

Yesterday he closed an era. With his passing, the last of the first generation of Whiskers’ Syndicate have become Eternals, saints, angels, whichever they choose.
But today I am going to call his name first: Degas.

And then I am going to call Amazing Grace, Kaitou, Kansai, Ainu, Hokkaido and Kantou. The names that slip, sneak, walk, jump, barge into my life, and lay the foundation for The Whiskers’ Syndicate. They are the spirit that keeps me young. They are my reason of being, my courage to begin, my grace to accept mistakes and failure. They are the stars that light my path when only darkness all around. They are the strength that bounce me back to my feet even though I don’t want to bounce back. They are the power that light my engine even when I myself don’t want to restart. They ignite my spirit even when I had enough and want to call it quits. They are the hope that keeps me going: a decade and four years.

They paved the better future for the hundreds of neglected, abused and stray cats who otherwise will never have had that chance. They are the chance and hope for the hundreds I have TNR-ed, or nurtured back to health and released. They are the gateway to a kind death for the others who got stuck on their way climbing stairway to heaven and need a little company just until they reach their final destination.
Today I am going to call his name first: Degas.

And tell him I am grateful for teaching me his patience. That I don’t need to run fast and furious all the time. Sometimes, it’s nice to wait until everyone is asleep because then that clean, fresh water is all ours.
And tell him I am grateful for the life so much enriched by his being for the whole decade and four years.
And tell him I am grateful for the hope he left as a heritage, so that when I look back at the long quiet road we traveled together, I have the confidence to turn around and keep walking.

And tell him I will be grateful if he’d be waiting for me when that road ends.

Happy Thanksgiving.
~ Josie

Help me pay it forward on behalf of all the cats who have blessed our lives:
and donate.


Warning: Graphic pictures at the foot of this report.

There came another message on my phone: a picture of a group of children with various costumes, each with a bag full of candies. Four days rain had broken. A treat from mother nature. Though the evening is moonless, children’s laughter light the night.
I tucked the phone into my pocket without answering and turned away from the window. I’ll treat them by not telling my story.

A true story about this skeleton cat who drank from a puddle right in front of the sanctuary just when I pull up from my morning round with the strays.
He has no nose. No, seriously. He has no jaw. He was eaten alive by mange and skin disease.
I opened the fence as if the most hideous monster was trying to eat me. I throw my bag on the floor, I ran back swinging my jacket open.
I wrapped him and hold him and run back into the house.
He squirmed and I kneel down knowing where he was going, and even from such shallow height he crashed land on the floor, skidding toward the food container I put on the porch of the shop for whom it may concern.

Three hours until my vet office would open feels like three centuries. I cleaned his eyes, I clipped his nail. He smelled like rotting flesh. He is a rotting flesh.
His back was almost hairless, which I wiped with warm water and mild baby soap. All the dirt that makes him darker than his real skin, all the crusty fungus turned the water pitch black.
His stick-like legs, his bald tummy. His eyes closed, and the way he lifted his head slightly when he felt the rub of warm towel as if it makes him brand new.
Then he put his head on my bosom, just a little bit, just a few second. I was determined not to let a single droplet of tears touched him because salty water must be painful, and he must have been in so much pain already, for who knows how long.
He walked slowly toward a plate of fish I shredded just for him and eat again. I found his way of swallowing a bit odd, but I was too taken to his gruesomely disfigured face that I didn’t realize what it was at that time.

Trick came after the treat and instead of being refreshed, his condition slowly but steadily declined. He used litter box before and it came out rather good, but after so much gobbling down food, what he left in the litter box was creamy, pungent liquid. First it’s brown, later pinkish.
Surely it’s not the first time I stormed through the door, that the entire clinic just lift their head for second and go back to their own business. One of my senior vet cleared out a way to the exam room and put on gloves. Most senior vet tech ran into the room ready for assistance. Twelve years and counting, if Josie came crashing into the clinic, it won’t be good.
They all wear masks, so do I, but after the pandemic language does not belong to the tongue, it belongs to the eye. At least one of those two pairs of eyes were swearing in silence when they saw what came out of my basket.

By then my man was too weak to walk on his own. He was severely dehydrated, and more pink pungent cream came out of his bottom.
He has fluid put in intravenously. He has various injections in place of life support. He squirms and fights, but he can’t even lift his head long enough.
He was laid down on his side and when he looked at me, I saw a gaping hole as big as chestnut on his throat, covered by crusty, thin layer of hair.
In a moment when I was alone with him, I looked at his decrepit eyes and whisper just between us.
“From this moment, you will be Adam. The first of men, the first of us all. You will be leading your life in paradise, you shall bask in the first sun, and play under afternoon shower. You will celebrate dusk, and you shall live long and prosper like finest of all creatures as God made you to be.
But first, Adam, let me be the eve of your new day.”
And he calmed down.

Still paradise won’t come right away. He got an X Ray that showed hard and solid things in his tummy, as if he was so hungry he ate rocks. He has fluid in his abdomen. He must have surgery: to remove the rocks from his intestines, to extract the foreign fluid in his abdomen, and to put his slashed throat back together. I imagine he wouldn’t be able to eat on his own for days, maybe over a week.
A swab taken from his cheek did not produce clear indication of what had eaten his face, even with the best of microscope. So we have to wait for the result of a biopsy.
Because a face like his can be caused by a fungal infection called Sporotrichosis that is transferable not only to other cats, but also to humans.

When I look back at him after the whole veterinary briefing, I found that Adam had fallen asleep; obviously because he must be so tired, though his face clearly shown that he also feels better.
Three hours later when I am back at the front door of my house, I walk in with a basket full of tricks and treats. The trick of demons that torment an unfortunate cat, the trick of human ignorance toward innocent creature whom they supposed to care for and protect, the trick of what might be looming doom.
The treats of perserverance that keep this speechless cat alive, the treats of God’s mercy that lead him to my doorstep.
Hopefully the treat of love from caring people who will bring the treat of light into Adam’s dark days,
And the treat of life, long and prosperous as it should be.

~ Josie
Help me help Adam: paypal.me/whiskerssyndicate
or donate a share.


I spent my birthday at emergency clinic; mourning two kittens, and worrying about their mother.

Two months ago a man asked me if I can help. He runs a perfume booth at the main road near the sanctuary, and love to feed any cats who come and knock the door.

So I came by and took the young mother. It seemed like she matured too young, and that pregnancy was her first.
She would sit at the back row, waiting for her breakfast, or brunch, or lunch, and dinner. She loves to sit by the window and enjoy the greenery dancing with the wind on our balcony. She would sleep under our bamboo sofa, or if the day is hot, just splay on the cold floor.

Near midnight on the eve of my birthday, I found her rolling on the floor, clearly in pain. She paced back and forth in laps around the living room. She went in and out of the cardboard maternity suite I had prepared a few days ago.
Her first baby was born leg first, and his head was stuck inside his mother. He tried to squirm his way out, but his mother was too much in pain, she kept rolling on the floor and running around the living room with her baby dangling between her legs.

The baby was thrown around, crushed, bitten and kicked as the mother screamed in panic, terror, and pain. We can hear his tiny bones cracking as his body was tortured in her mother’s panic, even after his death.
I tried to calm her down, both my arms were mauled. I tried to call emergency vets everywhere, but some of them wouldn’t answer the phone as they promised in their flyers or website, and some other who answer was in another emergency.

The one who answered my call was Sheilla. She came over, had her arms mauled and shred, while this one heck of a clinic wouldn’t pick up my phone. I know they are open, I just need to be sure there’s a vet in charge. I never trust people here. They all say one thing and do the other.

One minute past midnight, the time I was born fourty six years ago, I grabbed a basket, swept the mother off, and locked her in. I told Sheilla where to go, and she flew close to 100 kmh (62 mph) fourty five minutes to the one clinic I swear I wouldn’t go to because of their bad reputation, but unfortunately they are the only one still open.
The moment I went in with that screaming cat, a vet tech ran to the door and took over. I briefed a young veterinarian who came next.

It took four of them to hold the mother still while the vet pulled the baby out. He never had a chance.
In the middle of the sudden chaos, a clerk came by and asked if our arms were all right, and whether we wanted to go to the hospital just a few metres away. She told us she can handle the administration for us and that we can trust our cat with the clinic.

We never felt the pain. We never felt the running blood, we never felt anything. Our mind and emotions were frozen in the horror of the young street cat who must have felt she was thrown into hell.
Who would know what would happen to her, had she stayed on the street? Who would know what misery she had to endure – alone and clueless by the cold roadside across from the bus terminal – had I not pushed my luck one more time and took her in?

Her third baby was also inverted (born leg first) but the vet managed to keep the baby alive.
The last one was her mini me. She was born leg first, and just like the first one, the mother just wouldn’t stay put.
The little girl too, like the brother before her, didn’t survive.

While it took Peter three crows of a rooster, it took me only one. The sun had risen at the corner of our town, soon the day will be bright, and all the chaos that ensued will be gone with the sinking night.
I had nothing. I had nothing but a white envelope with a blue inscription “Happy Birthday” in my jacket.
I took all the money inside, worth USD 350, and gave it to the clerk.
“This is all I have”
The girl took my money, and returned USD 50.
She said, almost whispering,
Happy Birthday Ma’am.

~ Josie